Wednesday, November 26, 2014

One Shot: Doucet At Home Dress-1880

    In the 1880s a significant change occurred.  The vast skirts that had typified the prior several decades had collapsed like a deflated balloon, and the volume moved backwards, eventually developing into the bustle.  What happened then though, was called the cuirass shape, where the body was tightly encased from neck to the hip line.  This dress by the house of Jacques Doucet is a wonderful example to show you, with many thanks, as always to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and their astounding collection.
    This dress, which would have been considered fine for receiving guests in the afternoon, or for dinners at home is also virtually a sampler of the kind of dressmaking techniques typical of its time.  There are four textiles in use here, and the list of details is a long one.
    Starting at the top, the bodice, designed to look like a jacket, is princess seamed, so there is no waistline break.  The shawl style collar is done with metallic, beaded fringe.
The half length sleeves are of a brown yellow and white brocade fabric, a tan taffeta, and wide bands of off white lace, and end in cuffs of the lace, with bows of both other fabrics.  The bodice is edged on the front and sides with more of the metallic fringe, and the back has tails of diagonally folded brocade.  The final touch on the bodice is the large scaled enameled buttons with their paired peacocks.
  That is a lot of stuff going on, and we haven't even gotten to the skirt yet.
    So, downward we go.
    The silk taffeta skirt is laterally gathered, created shallow repeating puffs of material that connect in front to a triangular inset panel of the taffeta, completely covered with rows of the metallic fringes in use.  Below the lateral gathers there are 16 chain stitched appliques of fuchsia blossoms and below that still a row od double box pleats of the brocade, lined with the taffeta, and folded back to reveal the lining, with, of course, yet more beaded fringe over it.

    The train is caught up along the upper section into a simple drape, and the hem is edged with multiple layers of taffeta, that has been densely knife pleated and has a heading of a short self ruffle.
    To reiterate, this elaborate confection is not meant for leaving the home.  This was meant for at home entertaining of friends and relatives, and family dinners.
    With the increasing use of the sewing machine, more women of less immense means could dress well.  So, that meant that in order to make your station in life known, you had to resort to more of everything to make your point.
I'd say point made, wouldn't you?


  1. Quite the remarkable item! Such luxury, such workmanship -- such a horror! ; )

    When you think about all the work and expense put toward such an unlovely result...?

    1. Yep, endless hours of patient skilled work to make,...that. Sigh

  2. Yeah, it's kinda not very pretty. Impressive, but not pretty.

  3. Hone honey, does this bustle make my butt look big?